Einsteins Theories of Relativity Special Theory of Relativity (1905) –Usual notions of space and time must be revised for speeds approaching light speed (c) –E = mc 2 General Theory of Relativity (1915) –Expands the ideas of special theory to include a surprising new view of gravity
Key Ideas of Special Relativity No material object can travel faster than light If you observe something moving near light speed: –Its time slows down –Its length contracts in direction of motion –Its mass increases, or its momentum no longer increases linearly with velocity for sure! Whether or not two events are simultaneous depends on your perspective
Relativity of Motion Motion is not absolutewe must measure speed of one object relative to another Example: Plane moving at 1,670 km/hr from E to W would appear from space to be standing still
Absolutes of Relativity 1.The laws of nature are the same for everyone 2.The speed of light is the same for everyone All of relativity follows from these two ideas!
Making Sense of Relativity As children, we revised our ideas of up and down when we learned that Earth is round Relativity forces us to revise how we think of space and time
What have we learned? What are the major ideas of special relativity? –No material object can exceed the speed of light –We must revise our notions of space and time when dealing with objects near light speed What is relative about relativity? –All motion is relative –But laws of nature, including the speed of light, are the same for everybody
S2.2 Relative Motion Our goals for learning How did Einstein think about motion? Whats surprising about the absoluteness of the speed of light Why cant we reach the speed of light?
Reference Frames Motion can be defined with respect to a particular frame of reference Ball moves at 10 km/hr in reference frame of plane Ball moves at 910 km/hr in reference frame of someone on ground
Absoluteness of Light Speed Einstein claimed that light should move at exactly c in all reference frames (now experimentally verified) Light moves at exactly speed c (not c + 900 km/hr) Light moves at exactly speed c
Whats surprising about the absoluteness of the speed of light? Light moves at exactly speed c (not c + 900 km/hr) Light moves at exactly speed c
Thought Experiments Einstein explored the consequences of the absoluteness of light speed using thought experiments The consequences will be easiest for us to visualize with thought experiments involving spaceships in freely floating reference frames (no gravity or acceleration)
Trying to Catch up to Light Suppose you tried to catch up to your own headlight beams Youd always see them moving away at speed c Anyone else would also see the light moving ahead of you
Special Topic: What if Light Cant Catch You Is there a loophole? What if youre somehow moving away from a distant planet faster than the speed of light? In that case you have no way of detecting that the planet is there. Although there are some phenomena that move faster than light, no information can be communicated faster than the speed of light
What have we learned? How did Einstein think about motion? –Motion must be defined with respect to a reference frame Whats surprising about the absoluteness of the speed of light –Velocities in different reference frames do not add up like we expect them to because the speed of light must be the same for everyone Why cant we reach the speed of light? –No matter how fast we go, light will always appear to move away from us at speed c
S2.3 The Reality of Space and Time Our goals for learning How does relativity affect our view of time and space? Do the effects predicted by relativity really occur?
How does relativity affect our view of time and space?
Path of Ball in a Stationary Train Thinking about the motion of a ball on a train will prepare us for the next thought experiment
Path of Ball in a Moving Train Someone outside the train would see the ball travel a longer path in one up-down cycle The faster the train is moving, the longer that path would be
Time Dilation We can perform a thought experiment with a light beam replacing the ball The light beam, moving at c, travels a longer path in a moving object Time must be passing more slowly there
The Time Dilation Formula Light path in your reference frame Light path in frame of other spaceship
The Time Dilation Formula Time will appear to pass more slowly in a moving object by an amount depending on its speed Time almost halts for objects nearing the speed of light
Simultaneous Events? In your reference frame, red and green lights on other spaceship appear to flash simultaneously
Simultaneous Events? But someone on the other spaceship sees the green light flash firstsimultaneity is relative!
Length Contraction Similar thought experiments tell us that an objects length becomes shorter in its direction of motion
Mass Increase A force applied to a rapidly moving object produces less acceleration than if the object were motionless This effect can be attributed to a mass increase in the moving object, or a momentum increase with velocity that is no longer linear, i.e. p= mv where =1/1-(v/c) 2.
Deriving E = mc 2 Kinetic Energy Mass-Energy of object at rest
Do the effects predicted by relativity really occur?
Tests of Relativity First evidence for absoluteness of speed of light came from the Michaelson-Morley Experiment performed in 1887, the year Albert Einstein turned 8 years old.Michaelson-Morley Experiment Time dilation happens routinely to subatomic particles the approach the speed of light in accelerators Time dilation has also been verified through precision measurements in airplanes moving at much slower speeds
Tests of Special Relativity Prediction that E=mc 2 is verified daily in nuclear reactors and in the core of the Sun and every bright star in the sky. Kind of important in astronomy huh!
Test Relativity for Yourself If speed of light were not absolute, binary stars would not look like two distinct points of light You can verify relativity by simply looking through a telescope at a binary star system
A Paradox of Non-Relativistic Thinking If speed of light were not absolute, you would see the car coming toward you reach the collision point before the car it struck No paradox if light speed is same for everyone
What have we learned? How does relativity affect our view of time and space? –Time slows down for moving objects –Lengths shorten for moving objects –Relativistic Mass of a moving object increases –Momentum no longer increases linearly with speed –Simultaneity of events depends on your perspective Do the effects predicted by relativity really occur? –Relativity has been confirmed by many different experiments
S2.4 Toward a New Common Sense Our goals for learning How can we make sense of relativity? How does special relativity offer us a ticket to the stars?
Making Sense of Relativity According to you, time slows down in a moving spaceship According to someone on that spaceship, your time slows down Who is right? You both are, because time is not absolute but depends on your perspective
Toward a New Common Sense As children we learned that up and down are relative Relativity tells us that time and space are relative
How does relativity offer us a ticket to the stars?
A Journey to Vega The distance to Vega is about 25 light-years But if you could travel to Vega at 0.999c, the round trip would seem to take only two years!
Some Corrections This does not include the acceleration time of at least 1 year to get near the speed of light. This has to be done to get to Vega and back to earth, 4 times so you are not turned into goo by infinite accelerations. So actually it would take 6 years not two years with 4 years acceleration time and 2 years travel time. The acceleration of gravity of the earth, which you can tolerate, is g=9.8m/s 2 =32ft/s 2 =1LY/yr 2 (yr=year; LY=Light Year).
A Journey to Vega At that speed, the distance to Vega contracts to only 1 light-year in your reference frame Going even faster would make the trip seem even shorter! But if you do not want to be turned to goo you had better take 4 year accelerating and deacclerating so you will not exceed Earths gravitational acceleration.
A Journey to Vega However, your twin on Earth would have aged 50 years while you aged only 2. Actrually 54 years on earth and 6 years for the traveler to Earth to Vega and then from Vega to Earth. Time and space are relative!
What have we learned? How can we make sense of relativity? –We need abandon our old notions of space and time as absolute and adopt new a new common sense in which time and space depend on your perspective How does special relativity offer us a ticket to the stars? –For someone moving near light speed, distances appear to become shorter because of length contraction
Special Relativity Resources Wikipedia Special Relativity Introduction to Special Relativity Special Relativity not an introduction
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